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Pyrrho

This webpage reproduces one of the
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

by
Diogenes Laërtius

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1925

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Epicurus

(Vol. II) Diogenes Laërtius
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

Book IX

 p519  Chapter 12
Timon (c. 320‑230 B.C.)

[link to original Greek text] 109 Timon, says our1 Apollonides of Nicaea in the first book of his commentaries On the Silli, which he dedicated to Tiberius Caesar, was the son of Timarchus and a native of Phlius. Losing his parents when young, he became a stage-dancer, but later  p521 took a dislike to that pursuit and went abroad to Megara to stay with Stilpo; then after some time he returned home and married. After that he went to Pyrrho at Elis with his wife, and lived there until his children were born; the elder of these he called Xanthus, taught him medicine, and made him his heir. [link to original Greek text] 110 This son was a man of high repute, as we learn from Sotion in his eleventh book. Timon, however, found himself without means of support and sailed to the Hellespont and Propontis. Living now at Chalcedon as a sophist, he increased his reputation still further and, having made his fortune, went to Athens, where he lived until his death, except for a short period which he spent at Thebes. He was known to King Antigonus and to Ptolemy Philadelphus, as his own iambics2 testify.

He was, according to Antigonus, fond of wine, and in the time that he could spare from philosophy he used to write poems. These included epics, tragedies, satyric dramas, thirty comedies and sixty tragedies, besides silli (lampoons) and obscene poems. [link to original Greek text] 111 There are also reputed works of his extending to twenty thousand verses which are mentioned by Antigonus of Carystus, who also wrote his life. There are three silli in which, from his point of view as a Sceptic, he abuses every one and lampoons the dogmatic philosophers, using the form of parody. In the first he speaks in the first person throughout, the second and third are in the form of dialogues; for he represents himself as questioning Xenophanes of Colophon about each philosopher in turn, while Xenophanes answers him; in the second he speaks of the more ancient philosophers, in the third of the  p523 later, which is why some have entitled it the Epilogue. [link to original Greek text] 112 The first deals with the same subjects, except that the poem is a monologue. It begins as follows:3

Ye sophists, ye inquisitives, come! follow!

He died at the age of nearly ninety, so we learn from Antigonus and from Sotion in his eleventh book. I have heard that he had only one eye; indeed he used to call himself a Cyclops. There was another Timon, the misanthrope.4

Now this philosopher, according to Antigonus, was very fond of gardens and preferred to mind his own affairs. At all events there is a story that Hieronymus the Peripatetic said of him, "Just as with the Scythians those who are in flight shoot as well as those who pursue, so, among philosophers, some catch their disciples by pursuing them, some by fleeing from them, as for instance Timon."

[link to original Greek text] 113 He was quick to perceive anything and to turn up his nose in scorn; he was fond of writing and at all times good at sketching plots for poets and collaborating in dramas. He used to give the dramatists Alexander and Homer materials for their tragedies.5 When disturbed by maidservants and dogs, he would stop writing, his earnest desire being to maintain tranquillity. Aratus is said to have asked him how he could obtain a trustworthy text of Homer, to which he replied, "You can, if you get hold of the ancient copies, and not the corrected copies of our day." He used to let his own poems lie about, sometimes  p525 half eaten away. [link to original Greek text] 114 Hence, when he came to read parts of them to Zopyrus the orator, he would turn over the pages and recite whatever came handy; then, when he was half through, he would discover the piece which he had been looking for in vain, so careless was he.6 Furthermore, he was so easy-going that he would readily go without his dinner. They say that once, when he saw Arcesilaus passing through the "knaves-market," he said, "What business have you to come here, where we are all free men?" He was constantly in the habit of quoting, to those who would admit the evidence of the senses when confirmed by the judgement of the mind, the line —

Birds of a feather flock together.7

Jesting in this fashion was habitual with him. When a man marvelled at everything, he said, "Why do you not marvel that we three have but four eyes between us?" for in fact he himself had only one, as also had his disciple Dioscurides, while the man whom he addressed was normal. [link to original Greek text] 115 Asked once by Arcesilaus why he had come there from Thebes, he replied, "Why, to laugh when I have you all in full view!" Yet, while attacking Arcesilaus in his Silli, he has praised him in his work entitled the Funeral Banquet of Arcesilaus.

According to Menodotus he left no successor, but his school lapsed until Ptolemy of Cyrene re‑established it. Hippobotus and Sotion, however, say that he had as pupils Dioscurides of Cyprus, Nicolochus of Rhodes, Euphranor of Seleucia, and Praÿlus of the  p527 Troad.8 The latter, as we learn from the history of Phylarchus, was a man of such unflinching courage that, although unjustly accused, he patiently suffered a traitor's death, without so much as deigning to speak one word to his fellow-citizens.

[link to original Greek text] 116 Euphranor had as pupil Eubulus of Alexandria; Eubulus taught Ptolemy, and he again Sarpedon and Heraclides; Heraclides again taught Aenesidemus of Cnossus, the compiler of eight books of Pyrrhonean discourses; the latter was the instructor of Zeuxippus his fellow-citizen, he of Zeuxis of the angular foot (γωνιόπους, Cruickshank), he again of Antiochus of Laodicea on the Lycus, who had as pupils Menodotus of Nicomedia, an empiric physician, and Theiodas of Laodicea; Menodotus was the instructor of Herodotus of Tarsus, son of Arieus, and Herodotus taught Sextus Empiricus, who wrote ten books on Scepticism, and other fine works. Sextus taught Saturninus called Cythenas,9 another empiricist.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Ὁ παρ’ ἡμῶν. Reiske took this to mean "my fellow-citizen," ὁ τῆς ἡμετέρας πόλεως. Hence Usener inferred that Nicias of Nicaea was the author here used by D. L.; but nothing that we know of this Nicias tends to confirm such a conjecture. In favour of the translation adopted by most scholars it may be urged that Strabo calls the Stoics οἱ ἡμέτεροι, just as Cicero calls the Academics "nostri." Even if we accept this meaning, "a Sceptic like myself," a further subtlety arises. Is D. L. here speaking in his own person or has he merely transcribed ὁ παρ’ ἡμῶν from a monograph of a Sceptic? Something may be urged on either side; for reasons given in Introd. p. xiii, the former conjecture seems somewhat more probable.

2 Possibly the proem of the Silli.

3 Fr. 1 D.

4 Diels regards the passage from καὶ ἔπη, § 110, down to Τίμων ὁ μισάνθρωπος, §112, as an insertion, disturbing the symmetry of the materials derived from Antigonus of Carystus.

5 i.e. he collaborated with these two tragic poets, Alexander the Aetolian and Homer of Byzantium, partly by furnishing them with plots, partly by handing over scenes from unpublished plays of his own, or other similar material.

6 Similar carelessness is recorded of Lamartine.

7 Usually explained, after Diogenianus, of two notorious thieves, Attagas the Thessalian and Numenius the Corinthian. There may, however, be a sly hit at Pyrrho's disciple Numenius (supra, § 102). Or merely the birds partridge and woodcock may be meant, not any Mr. Partridge and Mr. Woodcock.

8 This is probably the same person as is referred to by Clem. Alex. Strom. IV.56, where the text reads Παῦλος ὁ Λακύδου γνώριμος. His heroic end was also extolled (Clement says) by Timotheus of Pergamum. See Wilamowitz, Phil. Unters. IV p107.

9 Possibly Κυδαθηναιεύς, i.e. a member of the well-known Attic deme, into which even Italians with such names as Saturninus might penetrate under the cosmopolitan empire of the Severi.


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